We’re All in
this Room Together
Second City brings us a night of merry madness
|Second City presents|
|We’re All in this Room Together|
Review by Lawrence Bommer
There’s a therapeutic premise behind Second City e.t.c.’s 36th revue: Never confuse live theater–strangers sharing laughs in a dark room as they watch a show that will never be the same twice–with the simulated reality that eats our hours—Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, “Breaking News” that turns out trivial, texts, status updates, checking in and out, obsessive email surveillance.
These demented distractions, along with their cause and effect– the A.D.D. that fragments and fritters our focus–are mocked repeatedly during this very funny but otherwise unambitious comedy romp. The show becomes its own memory in the making. But that’s exactly its very humane, “Our Town”-style point: For this one night “We Are in This Room Together.”
What they do once we’re here bears the usual mixed results. The humor, as always, is based on the shock of recognition: We see our own inappropriate moments magnified into satire. Playing very well together, the young sextet, ably helmed by Ryan Bernier, take gentle aim at idiotic posts from Obama or Romney supporters, conversation interrupters, drones and the amoral technocrats who operate them (possibly coming to a sky near you), rich fools who drive Ferraris, overly honest couples whom the truth will not set free, and underpaid and overworked women.
The comics also do a bit of affirming: In a lovely first act finale, an audience member gets to pose as Mike Kosinski’s gay lover, then marry him in an elaborate—but intentionally familiar—ceremony. (The divorce must happen during the intermission.)
Endowed with sharp sketches that happily know how to build and when to end, the two hours feature the hilarious appearance of “Dolly Mae Daniels and Her Ex-Husband Band“, in which Aidy Bryant calmly introduces each former spouse and explains what went wrong—until she reaches the latest loser for whom she has too much unprocessed anger: She vents it in the most sidesplitting expletives ever launched on a Second City stage.
Michael Lehrer is skilled at playing a professional worrier and justifying his free-floating fears, as well as singing a ballad about being short in stature but tall in heart and depicting a real estate agent who literally freaks out before the flip of a light switch. Tawny Newsome scores as a bar patron who quickly picks up the color codes in her white friend’s vocabulary–but misses her own. There’s a wonderful sight gag in which half the cast personify TEQUILA, BEER, COCAINE and 5 HOUR ENERGY as puppeteers sending humans into uncontrollable misbehavior.
Best are the sketches that earn their length, like Chris Witaske’s increasingly manic encounters with unquietly desperate classmates at St. Charles High School’s 25th anniversary reunion. Also well developed are all the rapid-fire but credible changes that occur during a father-daughter social, a political debate where each candidate speaks from both sides of his mouth and mind, and a date where a closet atheist clumsily fakes faith to impress his Christian girlfriend.
These are solidly crafted, intelligent exaggerated portrays of fallible souls making themselves up as they go along. That’s the core of comedy: Second City is right to return to what it does best, making merry madness out of our evolving extremes. What W.S. Gilbert put so well about falling in love applies equally to whatever Second City mocks: “I know it’s a weakness but the weakness is so strong.”
We’re All in this Room Together continues through August 28th at Second Cit e.t.c. Theatre, 1608 N. Wells, 2nd Floor (map), with performances Tuesday thru Thursday at 8pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm & 11pm, Sunday at 3pm & 7pm. Tickets are $23-$28, and are available by phone (312-337-3992) or online here (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SecondCity.com.
behind the scenes
Ryan Bernier (director); Jesse Case (musical director, sound design, original incidental music); Kyle Anderson (lighting, stage manager); Ashley Black (asst. director); Sarah Ross (set design); kClare Kemock (stylist); Alison Riley (producer); Jeremy Smith (asst. producer); Robin Hammond (marketing); Andrew Alexander (owner, executive producer); Diana Martinez (president); Dave Rentauskas, Todd Rosenberg (photos)